HP's webOS TouchPad Tablet Priced At $599 - InformationWeek

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5/20/2011
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HP's webOS TouchPad Tablet Priced At $599

Wal-Mart appears to be planning to sell HP's tablet at a price that's designed to compete directly with Apple's iPad.

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Internal Wal-Mart documents reveal that the big box retailer plans to sell the 32-GB HP TouchPad for $599, according to PreCentral. That puts it right in line with the cost of the 32-GB Apple iPad. The TouchPad was first announced in February, and HP then said that it should be available by mid-year. The exact release date for the TouchPad is still unknown.

Can the TouchPad compete at that price point? It's hard to say. RIM's PlayBook is priced similarly, at $499, $599, and $699 for the 16-GB, 32-GB, and 64-GB models, respectively. The Motorola Xoom can be purchased for as little as $599 (Wi-Fi only).

The biggest hurdle the TouchPad will have to overcome is applications. The webOS App Market has a paltry 6,000 applications in it, and it is unclear if they'll even work with the TouchPad. The lack of applications has been a knee-capper for the Motorola Xoom, which runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb. Sales figures for the Xoom have been far from stellar, as the number of apps available for the Honeycomb platform are few and far between. A similar story applies to RIM's recently-launched PlayBook. Unfortunately for all tablets, Apple's iPad has more than 65,000 applications optimized for it, and it can run the 200,000+ iPhone apps as well.

Since it has been nearly four months since it was first announced, here's a refresher on the TouchPad. On the surface, the TouchPad appears to offer all that its peers do: 10-inch display, dual-core processors, slick multitasking, generous storage, video chatting, and, of course, wireless networking galore.

The TouchPad is surprisingly iPad-like. It has an identical 9.7-inch display with 1024 x 768-pixel resolution. At 1.6 pounds, it is a bit more than the iPad 2's 1.33 pounds. The dimensions and bezel are also similar. Clearly, Apple's tablet was the inspiration for the TouchPad.

The 1.3 megapixel camera can be used for video chats and the on-board photo application looks extremely slick with its native social networking support. The TouchPad is powered by Qualcomm's APQ8060 SnapDragon processor, which has dual cores at 1.2GHz. Connectivity options include microUSB, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, and GPS. No HMDI and no DLNA, however, which means TouchPad users aren't going to be able to share media with other devices easily.

The latest version of webOS-- 3.0-- is on the TouchPad, and it has been optimized for the tablet form factor. Features that translate well on the tablet-sized screen include multitasking, webOS's cards and stacks features, and the new email application. The browser supports Flash for embedded video, and HP says that the TouchPad will be great for watching movies, reading books, or browsing YouTube.

HP is remembering its enterprise roots. The TouchPad comes with QuickOffice for Microsoft Office compatibility, and offers IT favorites, such as support for VPNs and encryption. Let's not forget to mention that the TouchPad will have built-in support for HP printers, which HP says are so numerous as to be available pretty much anywhere one might travel.

Last, HP has done a few innovative things, such as allow all webOS devices to easily and seamlessly speak to one another and transfer content. Based on its Touchstone technology, webOS devices--such as the TouchPad and Pre 3--can sync and share things such as Web pages, media, documents, and so on. It's a nice touch (pun intended) when it comes to keeping things in the family.

Looking at the bigger picture, the TouchPad's chances in the market are far from solid, though. The iPad/iPad 2 is a juggernaut in the tablet space.

But what about developers? HP mentioned that it has made its developer tools as simple as possible to use, and continues to receive interest from the developer community. The numbers in the Palm App Catalog--which are fractions of other app stores at about 6,000--tell an entirely different story. The developer interest in webOS, and the TouchPad in particular, is quite muddy.

Worse, HP's latest webOS device, the Veer 4G for AT&T's network, isn't being received with critical acclaim. In fact, it has been panned by most reviewers as being too small and too niche.

One thing the TouchPad can rely on is HP's relationship with the business world in general, and its scale when it comes to manufacturing and distribution. HP's brand is also known worldwide. HP has done well with a 1.0 tablet device in the TouchPad, but it will have to do better--and quickly--if it wants to fend off the iPad, Xoom, PlayBook, and untold hordes of Android tablets on the horizon.

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